American Woman?

Mary Pickford, born 127 years ago today, was known as America’s sweetheart. There was only one tiny fact that was overlooked in giving her that title, she wasnt American. She was actually born in Toronto, Canada, of parents of Irish, and English ancestry, and at that time, had no connection to America whatsoever.

But when Gladys Louise Smith arrived in New York in 1906, to work in theatre on Broadway, no one knew what history would hold. She had her first screen test in 1909 (before Los Angeles became the home of movies), and appeared in 51 films that year, mainly in small parts. 1910 saw her first movie making trip to Los Angeles, though it wasnt until 1916 that she found stardom there. In 1919 she was in at the creation of United Artists film studio, and a year later in one of the celebrity wedding of its day, married one of the other owners, Douglas Fairbanks. They stayed married until 1936. Shortly after that, she married Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, who she stayed married to, for 42 years, until her passing.

Strictly, she did become an American citizen in 1920, when marrying Fairbanks. But previously, she was British, as Canadian citizenship only began in 1947, post independence from the Commonwealth. She did become a dual citizen (American/Canadian) before her death, so she could die as a Canadian, as she wished.

One of the amusing things is that in her mid 30’s, she still was playing child roles, care of her ringlets. Some of them were real, though wigs have certainly been found that she used too. In 1928, the fuss when she had her ringlets cut off, and replaced by a stylish bob, you dont want to imagine!

But yes, if later today, you see pieces in tribute to America’s sweetheart, just remember one thing, she was actually Canadian!

Mary Pickford, RIP.

The video. I thought this apt somehow. A Canadian group, singing about an American Woman, exactly!

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Welcome to Hollywood?

Over on the other blog, I made a few comments about La La Land, which I finally got to see last night for the first time. Yes, fine, watched it mainly for the locations (lots that I’ve seen, or visited), rather than the movie (fine, I guess), but it made me think how tough it must be for those trying to break through in Tinsel Town.

In truth, I accept that my time to do so has probably gone, even if I have been performing more again of late, I cant see the Hollywood studios rushing to sign up a disabled 60 year old, lets face it. As the film shows, its hard enough for the younger ones trying to get their break, let alone a mature old lady like me!

Its one habit that Hollywood has been doing now for about a century, getting the young and ambitious arriving in town, dreaming of becoming a star, and in most cases, failing to do so. The result of that has varied over the years. Sadly, at least one related suicide (Peg Entwistle) due to lack of success, and others who had dreams of fame, but ended up in tiny parts, or in chorus lines, dancing. Yes, Clara Johnson, looking at you, lol. Of course, the irony was, many of those pretty dancers attracted the eyes of wealthy men, who wanted a young, and pretty wife, and yes, in truth, thats all some of those girls did it for, anyway, lol.

I wonder how Clara felt when she arrived in town in 1925, with dreams of fame that never happened, but along came the musicals, and her dancing talents, and the rest was history.

Maybe part of me regrets that I never tried that dream, but maybe it was for the best? Besides which, its easier for young, star eyed American girls to chase that dream, than Brit’s!

Still, all permitting, I plan to be back in town next year, so if any Hollywood producer wants to make me a crazy offer, I’m listening, lol! No, I dont expect a rush!

OK, video time. I wish there was a live video of Rafferty, and this song, but sadly there isnt, and of course, never will be now, I guess? But its one of my favourite Rafferty songs, and so apt, so…

An expensive birthday gift?

On one of my trips to Hollywood (makes me sound like a star actress, I only wish!), I came across a situation where I wished I could have swapped places with someone. Along the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Chinese Theatre, various people do ‘cosplay’ efforts at famous movie people. This involves dressing up as real people (Monroe, unsurprisingly is popular), or cartoon characters (seen a few Snow Whites in my time), and very occasionally a full body costume one, and yes, it was one of those I wanted to switch with, someone dressed as Iron Man. And yes, to my inexpert eye, a pretty good outfit it was too. I remember it fondly, because it was the same trip that some tourist stopped me to have their photo taken with me, an absolute first. I have no idea who they thought I was, or was looking like, to this day.

But yes, something like Iron Man would appeal to me no end. Yes, its pretty much a robot look, and I suspect inside it, it feels like being in a robot suit too. I have ‘suggested’ for the Wizard of Oz showing in Blackpool next month, that dressing up as the ‘Tin Lady’ would appeal to me, but we will see if it happens?

So when a friend posted this earlier today, on one of the forums I go on

Lets just say that I wish they’d asked me to be the model wearing that suit! Fine, in truth, I’d rather wear a classy Metropolis robot suit (and more apt for a woman), but if offered the chance to wear that, I definitely wouldnt say no. So if anyone has a spare $3000 laying around, that they just want to throw away as a treat, for a disabled old lady…? No, I dont expect to get crushed in the rush!

OK, for those with expectations of an actual music video, here it is. Guess this is what I’d love to do with said ‘Iron Lady’ suit, lol?

Blinded by a deed?

One of the things I enjoy about riding public transport in the US, is that it tends to be so wonderfully straightforward that nobody can get it wrong. Yes, in most cities I’ve been to, one fare serves all. You get on a bus (or a metro), and unless you’ve got a day pass, or weekly pass, the fare is the same. Seattle is a bit more complex (though not dramatically) than that, but LA is delightfully simple, I’m pleased to say. You just put your coins, or notes in the box, or register your pass, and on the bus you get!

Over here, its a whole different game! Its not quite every stop that you get on at, and get off at have a different fare, but there are lots of ‘zones’ involved, even in a shortish journey like mine into town. And pretty much, within town, most people do the same journeys, know the fare, and should have it ready, pay, and the bus can move on.

Oh, if only. You get people trying to say that they’ll pay the fare from the next bus stop where its cheaper, or that they are getting off a stop earlier than they actually do, to save about 30 pence! And of course, if its the getting on, you get a 2 minute discussion with the passenger, and the driver, before eventually said passenger slams down the right money, says something ‘less than delightful’ to the bus driver, and gets on. Either that, or glares at him for the rest of the journey, for making him pay the right fare. Of course, all this delays the bus, and annoys ‘passengers’ who have a connection to make in town, as some seem to do it every-time I see them travel.

The other thing that makes me a ‘grumpy old lady’ is the people who stand at the bus stop for 5 minutes or more, waiting for the bus to arrive, but only get their fare money, or pass out, when they reach the driver. What is so hard about being ready, folks?

OK, you’re getting this rant because this morning, I allowed 30 minutes to get somewhere, which should be a 14 minute trip. I got there with 4 minutes to spare!

Oh, funniest flat fare story. One morning I got on a bus at Hollywood & Vine stop, heading towards Glendale. A Man got on in front of me, deposited his fare (I believe it was $1.50 at time?) in the box, and sat down. No sooner had we pulled off, and he rang the bell, got off at the next stop, about 100 yards up the road, maximum. Seriously, he couldnt walk 100 yards (no, there were no visible issues, and he ran along street after getting off bus), had to catch a bus? Well…rolls eyes…?

OK, rant over, lets get to the song. This is actually the original version of this song, though many believe Manfred Mann’s Earthband were that. Wrong, lol!

Happy Birthday One Two Five

In these modern times, would you care to nominate any movie star who’s career is likely to last 75 years? Probably not? And lets face it, even if they did, the chances of them making 1 silent movie, let alone hundreds in that career, very unlikely!

But did you know, there was one movie star who did both, and managed to live within 8 months of reaching her century? Well, some readers might, but I suspect, not many. But yes, that amazing lady was Lillian Gish, who would have been 125 today, had she still been living, and she did her best to do so!

Of course, a lot of those silent movies are now lost to time, a lot of that down to films being made on nitrate film back then, which was a highly volatile material, to put it mildly. Indeed a lot of the lost films relate to fires created by these films being burnt to shreds. Thankfully, a number of her films do survive, unlike poor Theda Bara for example, who has 2 extant films from the numerous ones she made.

The thing is, back in the 1910’s (yes, a century ago), she was one of the biggest stars of the time. And she stayed that way until the dreaded introduction of sound to the movies. Though whether it was a lack of interest, or a lack of something else (her voice seemed fine in later life), she didnt make many talkies back then, before her retirement. Well, partial retirement, because as stated, she didnt actually make her last movie until 1987, at the grand old age of 94!

No, no one really knows why she never married in her life, though she did say she was married to her movies. But apart from one fling, and another reputed earlier affair, she never seems to have shown interest in romance. Was it that her preference was frowned upon back then, or was she really just totally asexual, who knows?

But yes, on this day in 1893, one of the great movie legends entered the world, and it took until 1993 before she left it again! So happy heavenly birthday, Miss Gish!

OK, video time. Well, this guy is still with us, though only (only!) 79 at this time. I know, the number is 109 out, but what can a woman do?

A heavenly dancer?

The next few days might be a let down for readers, but a bonus for me. Why, you ask? Because apart from Sunday, if you’re lucky, one blog will cover both versions! Tonight, because of the event, and next week, because of the holiday. But for now…

113 years ago today, in a small part of Pottawatomie county, Oklahoma Territory (as it was then, only became a state in 1907), a baby girl was born, to, I assume, a Mr and Mrs Johnson. They seemingly named her Clara Elaine, and the rest, in terms of Hollywood Chorus girl duties, and the like, are history.

Maybe one day, I’ll do more of a dig on Ancestry.com, and discover what her parents names were, and if there were any more brothers and sisters, as well as her. The only tentative suggestion (apart from the lack of birth control back then) that there was more than 1 child, was one of her actual film credits, when there was also a Peter Johnson listed in the cast. Of course, that might simply be a name coincidence, though her 1930 Los Angeles census record did mention 1 brother, so I am inclined to suspect it was probably him.

All I know of the early history is that she moved to LA from Texas in 1925, but when the move there, from Oklahoma, no idea. I need a long enough period of time to really work on Ancestry.com to dig into that sort of matter, and also I need the funds to buy a subscription for a few months at least, that I can get to really use to dig for info. So probably wont happen until I’ve finished working, whenever that is, but then… Even then, I suspect I’m only going to have the 1910, and 1920 census details, so unlikely to find exactly when the Texas moved happened is still going to be vague.

The other thing that needs a major digging through, is a list of marriages in the LA area in the late 30’s (most likely, as her work career seems to stop around 37/38), or perhaps the beginning of the 40’s, because for now, thats where my trail goes cold, with the lack of her married name. Given that her daughter she mentioned would now be in her 70’s, if still alive, it might be fascinating to follow the family tree from there. Probably grand children, and great grand children by now! I wonder if any know, or wonder what Grandma/Great Grandma did?

As I say, if I survive to retirement, and I’m mobile enough to still do it, I suspect it might be my post retirement challenge to try and find out more. I guess that nowadays, I could do a lot from the comfort of a computer at home, anyway?

I must admit, one thing I’d love to do, just once, especially at my age, is do the whole chorus girl thing. My dancing wouldnt be great, I’d probably look less than graceful in one of those flimsy outfits, but my attitude is, just once, I dont care, I want to do the whole Clara Johnson thing! I have 2 lovely friends who are trying to work on making that happen, so who knows, but I hope so?

Anyway, given this was the first year I actually have known her birthday, before the big day, I wasnt going to miss this chance. Its funny to think though, she had all the glamour of working in Hollywood, without any of the fame!

So, happy heavenly birthday, Clara Elaine Johnson, and hopefully, maybe one day, we can get to actually meet, though not in this world.

OK, video time. I have seen her dancing in numerous musicals of the late 20’s, and through the 30’s, including many of the famous ones. For all that, back then, unless they went on to make it, chorus dancers didnt normally get credits. One that Clara did, was a film named Strike Me Pink, though seemingly she was working under her middle name at the time, probably because Clara was a little ‘old fashioned’ name by 1936? Its also the best sighting of her, because she fills the screen between 4:13, and 4:17 in this clip

We’re in the money!

No, seriously, I’m not, so if anyone has got a spare thousand, or two, I’d really appreciate it. But on a more serious note… Back to the 1930’s, and…Inspired by this article, handily linked by a lovely friend

http://filmsinreview.com/2010/09/24/the-gold-diggers-in-hollywood/2/

One reason I’ve noticed for numerous retirements among chorus line dancers, was the fact that after a couple of years (maybe more, maybe less?), they didnt get worn out by the non stop nature of their work, but they went off and got married. The thing thats significant about that fact, is that they werent tending to be marrying their boyhood sweetheart, or anyone like that, a large number of them got married to wealthy men, a number of whom seem to have been a ‘little bit more mature’ than their new young wives.

Of course, the burning question I’m wondering is whether these wealthy men were after a trophy, attractive wife, who had an element of fame, in the sense they’d probably seen them dancing in chorus lines in the movies, or did these young ladies, with their moment of fame, go searching for a wealthy husband, as the article suggests, going gold digging?

My suspicion would be there would be six of one, half dozen of the other, but it makes for an intriguing question, especially in the depression era. But were those men hooked by ladies looking for a comfortable life, or did those young girls get influenced by money being waved in front of their eyes? Hmm?

No, before you ask, from as much as I can tell, Clara Johnson was neither gold digging, or gold dug, for want of a better term, but given the limited info she gave up, and the fact that she might have been coy with details, who knows? 😉

But fine, I guess if I’m young, pretty and talented, and some slightly older man waves a lot of money in your face, to go off and be his wife, I might not have turned him down either!

Right, video time. If anyone hasnt guessed the song, I’m shocked. Its Ginger Rogers at her best, pre Astaire days. Some pig latin thrown in for good measure, and yes, a certain Miss Johnson is among the dancing chorus line here! Song actually starts at 1:02 if you want to jump straight to it.